Chipping Norton’s Sean Walkinshaw declared himself very happy indeed with his pace and level of performance during the opening two rounds of the MRF Challenge 2013 in India over the weekend, 26th/27th October, after concluding the event with a best finish of sixth position in race one.
Running as the sole support category to the FIA Formula One World Championship’s Indian Grand Prix at Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, the curtain-raiser to the second season of the MRF Challenge featured some of the world’s top young single-seater talent.
Battling it out against the likes of Formula Renault 3.5 Series front-runner Arthur Pic, the younger brother of F1 racer Charles, GP3 Series race winner Tio Ellinas, British Formula 3 race winner Rupert Svendsen-Cook and FIA F3 European Championship race winner Harry Tincknell, 19-year-old Sean enjoyed his eleventh hour return to the MRF Challenge having debuted in the category last year.
Making a great start to the weekend, lapping second fastest in the opening practice session, the British racer was well on course to seal an impressive front row starting slot in qualifying for round one but a problem with his second set of tyres led to an eventual grid position of seventh place.
Although an unfortunate clutch issue on his Renault-powered Dallara resulted in a slip to the tail of the top 10 at the start of Saturday’s encounter, Sean mounted a superb recovery and posted the second fastest lap of the race on his way to a very competitive sixth place finish.
Starting the Grand Prix-supporting second round on Sunday from pole position, the Oxfordshire teenager was alleged to have made a debateable jump-start which set the wheels in motion for a trying race.
“We didn’t think it was a jump-start”, explained Sean, “We lost a few places off the line but then I missed the board they held out saying I was being given a drive-through penalty so I ended up being black flagged unfortunately. I think we could have definitely finished in the top five without that.
“It was a good weekend in the main and we were really competitive against some high-level drivers like [Rupert] Svendsen-Cook and [Arthur] Pic. We had good pace from the off really, second fastest in first practice and then on the first set of tyres in qualifying we were up in second again. When we put the new set on, though, they weren’t as good and we ended up seventh.”
He added: “Buddh is an amazing track, obviously I raced there before but with more experience and the MRF car getting better, and the tyres generally improving, we went much faster than we did last year. The car is a bit of a mix really of the Formula Renault I used to race and an F3, you have more grip at the rear than a Renault but then F3 is another step on from there.”
Next on the racing agenda for Sean will be the final two rounds of his regular championship, the European Formula 3 Open, which will take place over the weekend 9th/10th November at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.
Following the upcoming European F3 Open finale, Sean will focus on winter testing commitments ahead of the 2014 racing season so will forego any further involvement in subsequent rounds of the MRF Challenge.